The Demon That Haunts My Family
No one liked that bedroom. No one.
Perched on the second floor of an old 1900s farmhouse in Winona, Minnesota, the bedroom had been my grandpa’s brother’s room growing up, and it had earned quite the reputation in our family for its unsettling air. While my grandpa’s brother claims nothing sinister ever occurred within its four walls, everyone who came into contact with the eerie room says there is no denying it radiated negative energy.
“That bedroom was a guest room when we would visit our grandparents, and I absolutely refused to stay in it,” my mom recounts. “Growing up, my brothers, cousins, and I always felt terrible energy coming out of there. We couldn’t tell you why, but something always felt wrong about that room.”
I ask her what she means.
“It felt like something really dark resided there. It gave me chills just to walk into that room,” she says.
“Yeah, there was always something very creepy about that bedroom, wasn't there?” My Uncle Bryan chimes in from across my grandma’s dining room table. “I just remember feeling scared to go in there.”
A small grin appears on the corner of my grandma’s mouth with a slight twinkle in her eye as she remembers something long passed.
“I’ve told you what happened to me in that room, haven’t I?” she asks.
I’m young at the time. I shake my head no and eagerly encourage her to share with me.
“It honestly still haunts me to this day,” she says.
That caught my attention.
Grandma had a lot of supernatural occurrences happen to her throughout her life, and she was never shy about sharing her creepy experiences. Some of them are scary enough to give Poltergeist a run for its money. When she was about 7 or 8 years old, she awoke in the dead of night in her farmhouse — what is it about farmhouses? — to a man standing at the foot of her bed, staring at her. Frightened, as any young child would be (or adult, for that matter), she watched as the man disappeared before her eyes. Only recognizing the man later when she went through old family photos, she realized it had been her grandfather. Years later, my grandma’s brother would wake to their grandmother sitting in a rocking chair at the foot of his bed as well. And it was right then and there that I had a stern talking-to with both of my grandparents about not freaking me out should they ever decide to visit me from the afterlife.
“There was also the time our house came to life,” my grandma continues.
“After your grandfather and I were married and before our children arrived, probably 1961 or 1962, I was washing the walls in our living room. All of a sudden, there was a LOUD sound — but not a crash or bang or anything — it was like the whole house was breathing, and it just took a deep sigh,” she says. “It rather freaked me out. We couldn’t imagine what would make a sound like that.”
Prior to quitting cold turkey, my grandfather used to smoke in the house. I couldn’t help but giggle thinking that the house was probably grateful for the much-needed deep clean, finally feeling like it could breathe.
"Strange things continued to happen over the years. Her television would turn on by itself and have the sound of a heartbeat. A heartbeat. In the middle of the night, my grandparents’ washing machine would start up by itself, and the timer on the stove would go off when no one had set it."
“I didn’t hear it again until one night a couple of years later when my sister Amy was staying with us,” my grandma continues. “We were getting ready for bed when we heard it again — a deep, loud sigh coming from all around us. This time, both your grandfather and Amy heard it, too, and let’s just say we didn’t sleep great that night.”
Strange things continued to happen over the years. Her television would turn on by itself and have the sound of a heartbeat. A heartbeat. In the middle of the night, my grandparents’ washing machine would start up by itself, and the timer on the stove would go off when no one had set it. Even ghosts need midnight snacks, I guess?
And while so many of us have attempted to antagonize the spirits with the hope of them physically demonstrating their presence, my grandma is the only person I know who has ever gotten an actual, immediate response.
“One time while eating breakfast, I was reading a book by John Edwards, a famous psychic,” she says. “And he said that your loved ones come back to you through electricity. I thought I would put him to the test. So I said, ‘OK, Mom and Dad, if you are with me, make the lights get really dim and then really bright.’ And I kid you not, INSTANTLY, they did!”
There was also the time someone whispered, “Hi, Jean,” when she was completely alone in the house. Or, that time my cousin witnessed some invisible force taking out my grandma’s earring and chucking it across the room.
“Your cousin was sitting, watching TV, when all of a sudden my hoop earring went flying across the room!” my grandma says. “Not thinking too much of it, because I thought maybe it got hooked on my blouse and came out, I put it back in my ear. I was at the computer, so I started typing again. And instantly, my earring went flying across the room again. My earring wasn’t anywhere near my blouse at the time and I hadn’t even turned my head! Your cousin [who was a skeptic when it came to ghosts] had witnessed it and was thoroughly shaken. As was I, frankly.”
All that being said, my grandma was no noob when it came to the paranormal. So when she told me the story of what happened to her in that room “still haunted her to this day,” I perk up real fast. What would it take to rattle my grandma so deeply? Sure, other occurrences freaked her out, but this experience haunted her.
“What happened in Great Uncle Al’s room, Grandma? What did you see?” I ask.
My grandma finishes making my cinnamon toast (a childhood favorite), and places it in front of me before seating herself beside my mom and uncle at the table. She sighs, and I could see her searching for details stowed away in the deep crevices of her memory. But she isn’t searching for actual words. No, I could tell she was looking for something deeper as her brow furrowed. She is searching for a feeling; trying to grasp the emotions she felt in what I already knew was a dark moment of her supernatural history. I search her eyes for even the tiniest hint of fear, trying to gauge just how deeply this experience affected her. I don’t have to look long.
“Around the same time we had experienced the house sighing, we decided to visit and stay overnight at your grandpa’s parents’ home — the farmhouse,” she says. “We were staying in your grandpa’s brother’s room [uncle Al’s], because it was the guest room at the time. Like your mother and uncle said earlier, no one ever wanted to sleep in that room. It was creepy, and something just felt so wrong in there. But we tried to be pleasant guests and slept there anyway.”
"All that being said, my grandma was no noob when it came to the paranormal. So when she told me the story of what happened to her in that room “still haunted her to this day,” I perk up real fast. What would it take to rattle my grandma so deeply? Sure, other occurrences freaked her out, but this experience haunted her."
“It was really late, past midnight, sometime in the early hours of the morning,” my grandma says. “I awoke feeling more uneasy than I ever had. I had this spine-tingling feeling of being watched again — like I did when I was 7 or 8 years old. I was afraid to open my eyes and look around the room. I felt it before I saw it.”
She pauses — either for dramatic effect or to gather herself — I couldn’t tell. It looked and felt like the latter.
“What did you see, Grandma?” I’m practically climbing onto the table I’m leaning in so far.
She takes another breath and says, “I opened my eyes, and like a moth to the flame, they were drawn to the far, dark corner of the room. There, hiding in the shadows, was a large, tall, hooded figure.”
My grandma says she could feel the air leave her lungs. This wasn’t just an ordinary “ghost” or family member showing up for a visit at 2 a.m. This was something much darker.
“He looked like the Grim Reaper. It was a very dark presence, and I would go so far as to say it felt demonic,” she recounts. “It wanted to hurt me and cause me pain. I could feel that.”
“What did you do?”
My grandma, being a woman of Christian faith, relied on her religious roots to deliver her from the valley of the shadow of death.
“Well, first I covered my head with the blankets,” she laughs.
We all laugh, grateful to release a little tension.
“But then I said, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave now’ and prayed hard. Moments later, I felt more at ease, and when I was finally brave enough to peek beyond the protection of my blankets, the figure was gone.”
I shudder as Grandma describes the experience as one of the most terrifying in her life, how that scary moment has always stuck with her. The story wouldn’t have terrified me as much if it had remained just that — a story. But the thing is, it didn’t. This narrative, and the demonic presence, never left. It just followed.
Years later, me and two of my cousins would have our own run-ins with this dark entity. It began as dreams — for all of us. Within a two-week span, all three of us were having dark, tormenting, and terrifying dreams, all of which had demons present. Rationally, I told myself I was stressed and just working it out in my subconscious at night. But, when both my cousins told me they were having similar night terrors just about every night during those two weeks, I started to get an uneasy feeling that something was off. It wasn’t until the three of us had a sleepover that our demonic stalker would be confirmed.
It was 2 a.m., and the three of us had piled into my queen bed to sleep for the night. While my cousin Paige and I were fast asleep, Shay found herself waking up with an uneasy feeling. Something wasn’t right.
Allowing her eyes to adjust, she laid there and started to scan my small basement bedroom. Her eyes came to a halt the minute she saw the tall, dark, hooded figure standing over the three of us at the side of the bed.
She panicked, fear absolutely consuming her body.
This wasn’t just a dark presence, this was something much worse — or so her body told her as it recoiled into the bed, deeper into the blankets. Being the more rational one out of all of us, she kept convincing herself it wasn’t real, saying she was in between dream states and the figure would disappear. Too afraid to look again, she turned onto her side and slammed her eyes shut, hoping to eventually drift back to sleep. It took a long while and a lot of willpower not to steal a glance, but eventually she drifted off, only to be awoken by sunshine in the bright morning.
"Years later, me and two of my cousins would have our own run-ins with this dark entity. It began as dreams — for all of us. Within a two-week span, all three of us were having dark, tormenting, and terrifying dreams, all of which had demons present."
When she told us what had happened over breakfast, we all shuddered. Paige and I had both had bad dreams that night, and we all made the connection to Grandma’s original story. It felt like the same being.
He would come back over the years, in dreams and in real life, always seeming to focus on me and my cousins. My most terrifying encounter was the night I first experienced true sleep paralysis. I awoke at 3 a.m. one night, completely frozen. As my eyes fluttered open, I felt the familiar feeling of something being off. Something was wrong — again. My eyes fought to adjust to the light, and like my grandma, I felt it before I saw it.
Something very, very dark was watching me, and it felt like he was waiting for something.
As my eyes made their way to my and my fiancé’s bedroom door, I saw a large, black cloud — pulsating — like a giant black heart. It wasn’t the cloud itself that was terrifying but more the presence behind it, like a monster from Stephen King’s The Mist was hiding in its form. This being was no stranger. It felt familiar, and I just knew. It was the same entity that had come to my grandma.
Suddenly, the cloud started to move toward me. Terrified, I tried to move — and quickly realized I couldn’t.
No - no - no - no! I tried to wiggle even just my pinky finger, but my body wouldn’t respond to the mental demands that my head was screaming. I was paralyzed, and it was coming for me.
The cloud slowly floated toward our bed — excruciatingly slow — as if to prolong feeding off my fear. The feeling of dread and anguish grew stronger and stronger in my chest. I was wide awake. I wasn’t dreaming. And even if the figure was a result of sleep paralysis, in which hallucinations are completely natural, shouldn’t it be disappearing by now? I was fully conscious! The rational thought made the already growing fear in my body increase tenfold. But I knew in my heart of hearts the truth I didn’t want to admit — this was actually happening. There was actually something demonic in the room with me, and I was completely powerless.
I laid there for what felt like minutes, screaming at my body to move, until the figure had finally reached the bed. It was hovering just above my head. I have never felt terror the way I did in that moment.
But, like all the haunting tales teach, the dark is never a match for the light.
Remembering my own spiritual practices, I turned inward and began saying my own prayers. It was all I could think to do in the moment. I actively focused on connecting with the divine, and meditated hard. Suddenly, I felt my body coming alive. I was just as shocked as my paralyzed muscles were when I shot straight up, heaving breaths into my empty lungs and waking my once-peaceful future husband beside me. As I moved my body, I noticed the cloud above me dissipating, before altogether disappearing. After telling him the story, my fiancé didn’t mind sleeping with the lights on that night.
It’s been over a year since that incident, and my cousins and I haven’t had any demonic dreams lately. And while we may very well be in the clear with our sinister stalker, none of us can shake the unsettling feeling that this dark entity is still around. Watching us. Waiting. For what? We’re not certain. But, the one thing we are absolutely sure of? It’s nothing good.